Chapter 20 : Another Man's Blood
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Draco walked the halls of Malfoy manor silently in the early hours of that morning. He had left his men at the safe point and returned home to try and recover from the trauma he had endured in the last few days. The mission had gone terribly wrong. Many men were killed and the rest were injured. Their objective to recruit the shadow people of the northern islands had failed, resulting in an all out war and battle to get out alive. Draco was lucky that he wasn’t as badly injured as some of his men were.
The island warriors were well known for their great stealth and silent attacking abilities, which was what made them such a valuable asset to the Dark Lord’s campaign, but it were these traits precisely that caused Draco’s men so much grief. They hadn’t even had a chance to negotiate when they were attacked. What were considered trees in the dark jumped from the shadows and came down on them on all sides. They were caught like mice in a room full of cats. Those who escaped from that island were lucky to do so – any stragglers were left behind. His father had shouted at him for an hour at least. As leader, he had to claim the responsibility of his failure. It wasn’t something he was used to. Failure. It was a foreign word to him.
Draco didn’t dare look at his hands. They were the proof of what he had done to save his life. His perfectly manicured fingernails were now a weapon. Pulling, choking, ripping. That is what they had done that night. They had destroyed another man’s life. His arms were drenched in the other man’s dried blood, as were the rest of his clothes. The sooner he cleansed himself of the man’s death, the better.
Following the dark hallway in a daze, he didn’t realise he had reached his room until it was right in front of him. He attempted to turn the handle but for some reason it was locked. How strange. Why was his room locked? He had only been gone for two days. He pulled his wand from his ruined robes and unlocked the door.
Inside, everything was as he left it. Everything, except one thing. His bed was a mess, and he never left his bed a mess! In the dim moonlight of the early hours outside, he could see that there was someone asleep under the covers. Creeping closer, he was quite shocked to see Hermione delicately tucked under the sheets. What was she doing here? Surely she would have decided to sleep in her own room!
Her hair sprawled across the pillow gloriously and glittered in the small amount of moonlight that filtered through his dark room. Her arms were tucked up around her chest protectively, holding the sheets tight around her. There was only one thing that disturbed him about her sleeping form. She was completely beautiful and at peace – except for her face. Where a peaceful expression of carelessness should have existed, her worry lines run deep. She was troubled by something, but what could be so bad that it worried her through the night?
Draco outstretched his hand to brush the piece of hair that fell beautifully across her face, but then realised that he was covered in blood. Pulling it away hurriedly, he remembered that he had come to get cleaned up. He was too dirty to touch her. She was beautiful. He was a murderer. How dare he even consider touching something as exquisite as her? He rushed to the bathroom and stripped off his clothes until he was down to his pants. Going to the basin, he turned the water on hard and began to scrub angrily at the blood that stained his skin. He scrubbed and scrubbed, but it refused to come off. The man’s blood wanted to punish him. It would stay on his skin as a constant reminder of the terrible thing he had done.
He growled ferociously as he began to scrub harder and harder with the cloth, but still it wouldn’t come off. Looking into the mirror, he saw his face was slowly turning red with frustration, matching some of the specks of blood that were scattered across his nose. Why wouldn’t it just come off? It wouldn’t leave him. Why wouldn’t it leave him?
“Come on . . . COME OFF!” he growled at the blood. Why wouldn’t it come off? Come off!
Hermione was awoken by a raised voice in the bathroom. At first, she panicked. Who was it? Travis?! She heard the taps running on hard, which started to make her think that it mustn’t be Travis. Why would he break into her room just to use her bathroom? But if it wasn’t him, who was it? There was only one person she could think of . . . but what would he be doing here? She got up quietly out of the bed and moved towards the bathroom.
“Draco?” she asked nervously. If it wasn’t him, she was screwed. She had no wand and no means of defence. Draco’s head flew up in shock. He must have woken her up. Damn! He didn’t say a word before she stepped into the bathroom and saw his situation. She stopped dead in her tracks when she noticed the blood. Draco just growled and continued scrubbing furiously at the stains.
“COME ON!!!” he yelled at the blood. “Come on! Get off you bast-“ he screamed angrily, throwing the cloth at the mirror and picking up the nearest bottle and turfing it across the bathroom.
“Stop! STOP!” screamed Hermione sounding quite panicked. She placed both hands on his arm to still his movements. He stopped and lowered his head in shame. He had lost it. “Please . . .” she pleaded. She had had enough of anger and raised voices for today. She took the cloth and began to rub gently at the blood. Adding some soap, she slowly worked the stains from his skin. He didn’t dare say a word or even look at her as she continued to work the stains. She passed from one arm to the other, and soon enough, she had scrubbed away all the blood. Looking at his arms (not her), he thought it might almost be bearable to continue on without the constant reminder of what he had done that night.
“Thankyou . . .” he whispered. He couldn’t look at her. He was seriously ashamed of his outburst. She didn’t deserve this at the early hours of the morning, but still she helped him, even though he had completely lost his cool. What possessed her to be so kind?
“Look up!” she said quietly yet demandingly. Raising his head, she began to scrub the small spots off his face and neck. He watched her as she polished his skin with the cloth. Her eyebrows knotted in concentration, her eyes squinting in the dim light as she scrubbed, her lips pursed defiantly. Her hair kept on falling into her view, but she simply ignored it. Draco did something totally unexpected as he pushed her hair behind her ear in a gesture that was somewhat intimate. She stopped suddenly and looked him in the eyes. Her eyes were unsure, but that wasn’t what Draco was looking at. His attention was fully on the large bruise that he hadn’t seen earlier.
His hand ran up to her chin and tilted it a little. She tried to hide it by turning away, but has her hand travelled up to her face, he noticed the second bruise that ran like a ring around her wrist. Grabbing her wrist with his other hand, she desperately tried to get loose but he wouldn’t allow it.
“What happened here?!” he asked demandingly. She couldn’t handle his accusing tone or what he demanded of her. She uncharacteristically dissolved into tears. Draco didn’t quite know what to do with a crying girl. He had rarely had the opportunity to comfort someone. He did the only thing that seemed to make sense, and that was to take her in his arms and hold her against his chest while she cried. What had happened to her to make her so pitiful? A million thoughts were running through his head as he tried to understand what was wrong with her. Did she get attacked? By who? The Dark Lord? The house elves? Who?
“I’m so sorry!” she sobbed, her soft hands resting against his bare chest. Had she not been crying her eyes out, the entire situation would be quite a turn on. Him half dressed. Her wearing not much of a night gown. It made him all the angrier. Who ever were responsible for these tears would pay! He patted her hair soothingly, the smell of her shampoo intoxicating his senses.
“It’s all right. Just tell me what happened.” he said soothingly. She sniffled and pulled away from his chest. Her eyes were puffy, her nose dribbling, her hands shaking – but still there was a beauty about her. Her lip quivered as she tried to verbally pronounce what had happened.
“I . . . I . . . I should have just listened to you! You said . . . you said . . .” she stuttered. Draco ran a hand through her hair as he tried to coax her into continuing. “He was dangerous. I didn’t want to believe it . . .” Draco’s fast paced thoughts came to a halt. Rangel. His temper boiled. He placed both hands on her face, holding her gaze at his so that she understood the seriousness of what he was about to ask.
“Hermione. What did he do to you? Tell me exactly what happened!” he asked sternly. Her lip began to quiver again as she started to explain what he did. It came out in bits and pieces but well enough for him to get the gist of what had happened.
“I don’t know . . . he . . . he must have thought I was . . . interested . . . and . . . and . . .” she stuttered, hiccupping every now and then. “. . . he came to my room . . . and . . . and . . . I said no . . . he got angry and . . .” at this stage she burst into tears again. Draco wasn’t sure how he managed to stay so calm. He felt the anger boil up inside him. He would kill him.
“Hermione, did he actually . . . force you?” he asked delicately. He was glad that Hermione was too upset to notice that his grip had obviously tightened. She shook her head vigorously, the curls flying magnificently around her face.
“No . . . no . . . the Professor saved me. Oh! Draco! The Professor – I think he might have hurt her!”
“It’s okay. We’ll go and check on her . . . right now though . . . right now . . .” What? What would he do now? The only thing that was running through his mind was to go and find Rangel and commit murder again – just like he had earlier that night. But there was the matter of the distressed woman who was crying in his arms. Right now, he needed to calm her down. Then, when she was asleep – he would go and deal with Rangel. “Right now, I want you to come and lye down with me!”
She ignored the forwardness and meaning of his statement. She was too distressed about her cat.
“But the Professor! She could be hurt – seriously hurt! She may need-“
“Okay, okay!” Draco interrupted. He obviously wasn’t going to get her to calm down if she were too worried about her damn animal. “We’ll go and check on the cat!” She clung to his hand as he led her out of the bathroom and out of his bedroom, into the hall. She hesitated before stepping into the hall, but because of Draco’s forceful guidance and strong embrace, she felt strong enough to walk into her room. Once inside, she didn’t move away from Draco, but began to call the cat.
“Here puss, puss, puss! Professor?” she whispered about the room. Not a moment passed and the tiny animal meowed from the far side of the room and limped towards them. “Oh! You poor little thing!” Hermione gushed. She quickly bent down and scoped the poor animal off the floor and it nuzzled itself happily into her hair. Draco bent forward and held out its leg, pressing gently up the bone. She hissed half way up which gave him a fair impression that it was fractured. He pulled out his wand and with a simple spell, healed the fracture.
Realisation spread across Hermione’s face as she realised that she was in actual fact, missing her wand. It had been tossed out of her hand during the fight. She hurried across to her bed and after a quick search, found it lying on the floor beside it. Having retrieved what she wanted, she was happy to leave the room, staying suffocatingly close to Draco. If it hadn’t of been for the wondrous smell of her perfume, Draco could have felt quite disgusted.
They returned to his room, moving over to the bed. She didn’t kick up a fuss at all about lying down with him. In fact, she almost seemed welcoming of the idea. He guessed that after spending the night alone and afraid of Rangel’s return, she was grateful for his protection. She let the cat go to find a place to sleep by herself. Draco discarded his blood soaked pants, opting for a clean pair to sleep in and crawled into bed. She crawled in next to him. He left his left side open to her, which she gratefully cuddled up to.
It was a strange experience for Draco. Never did he expect to be in this position with her. She didn’t mind at all. His arm was curled around her shoulders protectively, and strangely enough for Draco, he was grateful for the comfort and distraction of her warm body beside his. Tomorrow, he would deal with Rangel.
Author’s Note: Hmm . . . are you feeling the cosiness between the two. It all starts with respect, and what follows is of their own making! I've had quite a few startling reviews about everyone's anger for me not updating sooner. You've all got to understand that I can't update everyday now because I'm living somewhere new. So please just be patient! I'll try and update again in a day or two!
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